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With its serpentine stem and glowing tip, the Kensington FlyLight's design somehow looks both classic and futuristic -- think Star Trek Art Deco. But this nightlight for laptops wins our ardor more for function than for form.

The FlyLight lets notebook users work in poorly lit places: darkened airplane cabins, dim conference rooms, or even -- heaven forbid -- in bed. Just unroll the device -- a flexible 18-inch cord topped with a light-emitting diode -- and plug it into your computer's USB (Universal Serial Bus) port. Then adjust it over your machine. You'll get a tiny, precise pool of light, bright enough to illuminate the keys but soft enough to avoid disturbing anybody who is sitting -- or sleeping -- nearby.

The light draws on a computer's battery, but it reduces battery life by only 90 seconds per hour, according to manufacturer Kensington Technology Group. There are no attachments, no breakable parts, no bulbs, and no switches. (If the light is plugged into the computer, it's on; if not, it's off.) The company claims that the light should last nearly 100,000 hours -- the equivalent of about 11 years of round-the-clock use. (Although that seems like a pretty safe assertion, who's really going to know whether it lasted only, say, 50,000 hours? )

Priced at about $20, the FlyLight is sold at many office-supply and computer retailers; it's also available at www.kensington.com.

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